Arizona border flares up as new illegal immigration hot spot

It’s not just Haitians, and it’s not just Texas where the border seems out of control.

Some 3,400 migrants — most of them Brazilian, Venezuelan or Cuban — were mired in Border Patrol holding facilities in Yuma, Arizona, over the weekend, according to the sheriff, who said he’s never seen things this unruly.

Video shows them coming in long streams, walking around the edge of the border wall and turning themselves in, most of them figuring they’ll be caught and released — and many of them will turn out to be right.

“It’s getting a lot worse,” said Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot. “I’ve never seen it this bad with Border Patrol having to hold so many, and dealing with the issues we’re dealing with now because the administration won’t enforce the law.”

Agents have been shifted to caretaking duties, pulling them off the line. He said he can drive a 20-mile stretch of the border and see only a handful of agents, because “everybody else is busy processing” the thousands in custody.

That leaves the border open not just to other migrants who may want to slip by unnoticed, but also to a surging amount of drugs such as fentanyl, the sheriff said.

He said in a single day last week — Wednesday — the Border Patrol in Yuma apprehended a thousand people. A normal day now is 600 to 700. A year ago, at the end of the Trump era, it was 25 to 35 a day, the sheriff said.

Yuma is about a thousands miles west of Del Rio, Texas, where an unprecedented migrant camp sprung up earlier this month on the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande. Thousands of Haitians breached the border and established a foothold on American soil, coming and going across the river at will and awaiting their chance to be caught and released into the interior of the country.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas this weekend declared victory in the Del Rio situation after the camp was finally emptied of migrants. But he acknowledged about 13,000 of the more than 15,000 people who were at the camp at its peak were released on the hope that they show up for eventual immigration court dates.

Yuma is different from Texas.

The 3,400 migrants were in custody of Border Patrol, which says it is processing and turning them over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is then making decisions about whom to release.

Of those 3,400, about 2,000 are single adults. If they were from the traditional sending countries of Mexico or the Northern Triangle area of Central America — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — they could be quickly expelled.

But they’re from much further afield, and the Biden administration says it’s not getting as much cooperation from Mexico as the Trump team did in taking them back.

Sheriff Wilmot said there were about 930 people from Brazil, 819 from Venezuela, 430 Cubans, 400 Haitians, 270 Colombians and the rest from a mix of countries.

CBP said it can handle what it’s seeing.

“Responding to changing migration patterns is not new to CBP and the Border Patrol, and Yuma Sector continues to redirect manpower as traffic patterns change,” the agency told The Washington Times.

CBP said it has a new tent facility to handle more capacity and insisted it is expelling those it can oust under a pandemic border policy.

Sheriff Wilmot said those are few, however.

He said of 110,000 crossers caught in the Yuma sector this fiscal year, only about 10,000 were expelled.

In 2020, Yuma saw only about 8,000 apprehensions total. It is the hardest-hit of the nine Border Patrol sectors along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.

Mr. Mayorkas told Congress last week that he thinks the agency had turned a corner on the surge, saying the numbers were dropping in September from unprecedented levels of July and August.

“I have been quite clear that we do have a plan to address migration at the southern border. We’re executing it. It takes time, and we’re starting to see the results,” the secretary said.

Sheriff Wilmot said he hasn’t seen much evidence of Mr. Mayorkas’s effort.

“The thing that aggravates the sheriffs as a whole is the administration doesn’t have a plan. They said they have one but they’re not willing to share it. And it hasn’t worked, if they did have one,” he said.

The fiscal year ends Thursday, and 2021 is flirting with the record for most Border Patrol apprehensions, set in the 1980s. If September is as bad as July and August, it would set a record, but if Mr. Mayorkas is right, the year will fall just shy.

There are some signs that pressure is lessening. The number of unaccompanied juvenile migrants, which is often a leading indicator of the overall flow, has dropped significantly, going from catastrophic to merely troubling levels.

Yet experts say 2021 is already the worst year on record qualitatively, given how many of those who crossed have been caught and released into the country — and the striking number that come from beyond the traditional sending nations.

In August, the latest month for which there are full numbers, nearly 60,000 — more than 30% — of the migrants nabbed by Border Patrol agents along the Mexico boundary were from outside the traditional sending nations. In December, the last full month in the Trump era, the number was fewer than 8,000 people, or about 10% of the total.

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